Why won't my car start?

Tiny
SJSHARKS19
  • MEMBER
  • 2001 CHRYSLER SEBRING
One day at a gas station my car would not start. I kept trying and eventually it stopped cranking and just started clicking (but it was a while before it started doin that). All lights and what not still come on. My income is low so I had been driving it with low gas for a long time (especially low when I got to the gas station). Also low oil. After a few days I tried starting it again. It seemed like it almost started. Like it ran real rough for moment and then died back out. I don't know a whole lot about cars so any advice would be appreciated
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Friday, December 23rd, 2011 AT 11:56 AM

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Tiny
DRCRANKNWRENCH
  • EXPERT
Fuel injected cars are real picky when the fuel gets real low. If you are on empty, there might not be enough fuel to get it running as the fuel pressure needs to be 30-50 PSI, in general. Not a spec for your car, and that is in the return line. So, you have to have enough gas to cover the pump filter in the tank, which does not touch the bottom, and fill the entire fuel system with gas that takes up less volume when pressurized. So, fuel injected cars will start to run a little rough even when they get near empty in a lot of cases. Having it low on oil could trigger a safety circuit that prevents car from starting and the battery being low on charge will not spin the motor fast enough to start it especially if it has sat or had an issue running. The battery will prime the fuel sytem when the key is in, "ON" position, so it is working before you even try to start it. Just becasue it turns over does not mean it is turning ovber fast enough to start, especially if it is older high mileage car. So, charge the bbattery or get a jump. Top off the oil level. Put at least 2 gallons in the tank if you ran it till empty to make sure there is enough gas.
If it does not start with alll of that then there may be other issues. If it ran and started okay before just be patient with the jump start, if you do that instead of charging battery, as it will take some time to give the battery a charge and make sure all accesories are off. You can rev the jumper vehicle some to start it but I do not reccomend revving it much over idle as it does not really make a jump in amperage until 3000 RPM.
I hope it starts up for you. At least you are at a gas station where you can get the oil, gas and a battery charge.
Let me know if you need anything else.
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Friday, December 23rd, 2011 AT 12:22 PM
Tiny
SJSHARKS19
  • MEMBER
Thank you for the advice. Yea I put the oil in and I have about 5 gallons of gas in it now. So im going to try jumping it in a few hours. Because its definitely not turning fast enough now. However when it first happened at the station it seemed like it was. So I don't know if that was the initial problem.
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Friday, December 23rd, 2011 AT 1:32 PM
Tiny
DRCRANKNWRENCH
  • EXPERT
Well, you at least will eliminate these 3 as possible reasons for the starting problem. If it does not start, there is a test you can do if you have an assistant or really good hearing. The fuel pump relay actuates the pump for 2 seconds to prime the system when the ignition switch is put in the, "ON" or "RUN" position. You can hear the whirring sound of the pump but be sure you don't turn the key to "START". You must leave it in "RUN" to hear the pump. You might have to get someone to get near the tank and as close to the pump as they can to hear it run when you turn the key to, "RUN". If it does not make a noise, try the test several times to make sure that either the pump is not working or possibly the pump cannot be heard when it primes the system. This should be doen after you have fully attempted to start the car. This might be a reason it is not starting as fuel is not making it to the engine. You can also pull a plug after many attempts to start it as it should get wet from gas which you shoukld be able to see.
If the plug is dry and the pump does not run, the relay would be the first thing to look at as the reason the pump is not running. It may be a loose wire. The pump relay is referred to as the main relay and is genrally behind the lower panel of the dash on the drivers side. You can usually find it by just getting your head under the dash and looking for a lrage relay and it is commonly labled. Check the wires to make sure they are making a good connection.
The next best option would be to have the gas station pull the trouble codes as it takes less than a minute or two to pull and read them. This is done for free at Advance Auto and Auto Zone stores, so if you are a customer of the gas station they should do it for free or nearly free. This will give you any electronic faults that are occuring in the system and the malfuntion light on the dash does not need to light up or flash to have a trouble code. This will tell you if it is a problem in the ignition system or the fuel management system. If you don't get a code then the problem is genrally mechanical.
That is the best I can give you besides a walk through diagnostic that deals with this issue and goes into each aspect in more detail and covers the possible mechanical faults.
I am going to actually give you 2 just in case it does not start. So one will be for hard starting which I will put first and the second will be for a no start situation. They will have a lot of similarities.

Here is the link for hard starting;

http://www.2carpros.com/articles/engine-cranks-excessively-before-starting

And the link for no start;

http://www.2carpros.com/articles/car-cranks-but-wont-start

That is about all I can give you. Let me knwo if you have any questions and I will reply ASAP.

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Friday, December 23rd, 2011 AT 3:37 PM
Tiny
SJSHARKS19
  • MEMBER
Dude thank you so much for all your help! I got it to start off the jump! It seems to be running fine now. After I got it started I drove around for about 10-15 min. Then turned it off and it started back up. So I think I just ran it too low on gas initially and drained the battery trying to start it. Anyways thanks again your awesome. So when I start it tomorrow how long should I run it or drive to insure the battery charges? Also I seem to have an oil leak. Just wondering if there are specific places I should check for the source of the leak. Loose bolts etc?
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Saturday, December 24th, 2011 AT 4:30 AM
Tiny
DRCRANKNWRENCH
  • EXPERT
You are very welcome and I am glad it turned out so well.
You do have to watch out when fuel gets low in fuel injected cars, especially older ones with high milage as the filter on the pump intake gets a little clogged and it does not necassarily reach to the bottom of the tank where s the fuel level sender float will always reach the same lower level and tell you there is gas when it is not high enough to reach the pump inlet. So, I am really glad that the jump did it. That is really good news as being stuck at a gas station is not a great situation, but at least it was somwhere that you could get help.
As far as charging the battery to 12 Volts, it can be up to 14+ volts if you have just driven it and turned it off. First try and recall how old the battery is. If the battery is a 3 year battery as its advertized service life and it is getting close to 3 years old, you may consider getting a new one. Batteries often have issues that keeep them from making it to the end of their advertized service life. If the battery has seen a lot of discharges that dropped the voltage low enough to not be able to start the car, tht can shorten its life. Things like quick charges and discharges and loads from accesories or a failing alternator can do the same. So, if you have a multi-meter, test the voltage when the car is sitting and make sure it is 12+ volts and it should hold that for a while even when it is not started. You can get a multi-mdeter for under $10 at Auto Zone or Advance, it is worth it as you will find many uses. I just used mine to test the voltage on a AA battery as I thought it was too old and it says it should have 1.5 volts on the battery. It turned out to be 1.3 and that will work just not as long as new. You also want to test your battery in a load situation. The first test is to turn on all the accesories and see what the voltage does. It should stay near 12 volts. Also you should test the voltage when the car is being started to see if the battery is handling the large demand of the starter. If it drops in voltage below 12 by more than a tenth or so of a volt it is okay. If it drops more than a half or 1 bolt it is going bad. So, test it or if it is old, just get a new one.
As far as how long to charge. When you jumped it and drove it around it probably got to 14 volts as it started after sitting and that requires 12. The battery gets charged above 3000 RPM the most, it gets charged as long as the engine is running but at or around that RPM is the higest amperage on most alternators. The battery was nearly charged just from the jump, it is just a quick charge which is not a good thing for it to go through repetitavly. So, you are probably good to go, but if you had a multi meter you would know for sure becasue I can't say for sure as there are many variables as I have discussed. Usually a 10 mile drive at speeds near 45+ MPH will charge a near dead battery fully, but that is when a bettery is lower on voltage than your situation.
As far as the oil leak, there are a lot of things that can leak. To find out where it is coming from you first have to clean the engine. I clean my engine bay more than the outside of my car and the underneath is kept clean as well. This lets you see leaks as soon as they start and makes it easier to track them. The puddle under the car does not always point to the leaking site above it. It can leak from somewhere and get on a hose or line and stick to it and ove away from the leak and it won't drip until it is heavy or reaches the lowest point on the hose. So you have to look at it from the bottom up and trace it by looking for hoses and things it can stick too and check them to see if there is oil on them and follow the oil trail to the leak. This requires the engine to be clean. I just did the coolant on my Fiances Mustang and one of the power steering cooler lines has a little coolant on it every day. Very small but it must be found as pressure is necassary for the cooling sytem to work. I have not traced it yet but I gone up the line and felt the trail go up it which would not be above where it makes a little puddle if it sits.
So there it is. I hope things go well with the car and you don't get stuck. Always remember tha the old saying, "Ahundred dollars in maintenance will save a thousand dollars in repairs". This is a very true statement. People will change there oil and not change there anti-freeze. This will still destroy and engine just like not changing the oil will. So you can;t neglect the manufacturers suggested service intervals.
Good luck and have a good holiday and new year.
Come back anytime as the team of techs we have are really willing to help and some of them really know a lot of stuff that only workng lots of hours over your life turning a wrench everyday can teach you. Information is priceless. We don't have anyone who is not a whiz at this and I am really the low one on the totem pole as far as how long I have been here and how many questions I have answered. I have learned a lot because I was good in general but was A Dodge, Old Dart 340 Swinger I had in early college and working at a bike shop was my second car that I really got into because I had to as it broke from having a lot of horsepower. I also had a Coronet 440. Then I started ridng Japanese bikes and eventually raced them. I built and raced a 2 stroke and actually was sixth in the nation in my class in the AMA circuit in 94 and was regional champ in 95 but wrecked at nations which are held at Daytona every year. So, I got a lot out of that, but it was focused on 2 stoke performance but I still learned about elctrics and brakes and suspension as they had to be perfect. Then I built a 1990 Integra to near restoration. I put a 1998 engine and electronics in it. So I replaced the entire wiring harnes. That car was co clean that there was not a leak anywhere. I wrecked it into a telephone pole last May and I got hurt really bad. I can't remeber how it happened. That ws a hard car to lose but I did not hurt anyone or die so I am very blessed to be here. I am learning more about Fords now that my Fiances car is our only car and I have to keep in going and there is something always wrong with it. It is a 1997 and it is jsut the nature of the beast.
So I have gained knowledge from all of that but I have learned so much here from helping people and getting help from other techs becasue I have to learn about evry manufacturer and model.
If you have read all of this, I appreciate your patience as I am tired and rambling. Didn't I say have a good holiday about 1000 letters ago?
Take care and come back when you need us.

Dr. C
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Saturday, December 24th, 2011 AT 8:29 AM
Tiny
SJSHARKS19
  • MEMBER
Haha yeah man I can't thank you enough for all your time and tips. Its like I got my car back for christmas ha. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
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Saturday, December 24th, 2011 AT 11:22 AM
Tiny
DRCRANKNWRENCH
  • EXPERT
Happy holidays and a Great New Year to you too. Yeah I guess the car is a kind of xmas gift. Good Stuff.

Take care.

Dr. C
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Sunday, December 25th, 2011 AT 12:24 AM

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